When I last visited Anthony Scaramucci, in the middle of his investment company’s annual conference in Las Vegas, he made it known that if President Donald Trump wanted him, he’d be game for a sequel.
That was back in May. Much has happened since in the life of the erstwhile White House adviser, who in the summer of 2017 spent 11 memorable days as Trump’s communications director before he was fired over a profane phone interview.
Scaramucci is poised for a second act, just not the one he envisioned. He’s been feuding with Trump ever since he appeared on the August 9 episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, where he told the audience that some of what the president has done has been “absolutely indefensible.” Trump tweeted that he was watching the broadcast, albeit “by accident.” (That’s by no means uncommon: Maybe the remote gets stuck on the wrong channel. Maybe you press the buttons, but nothing happens, and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour of your presidency watching premium cable. An accident.)
As he is wont to do, the president flayed his former aide on Twitter. And Scaramucci didn’t appreciate it. The man who just last year wrote a book declaring that Trump “has an intellect uniquely suited to the presidency,” and who had long celebrated the president’s feel for working-class America, was now a Never Trumper—one who’s pledging to create a political-action committee and mobilize like-minded allies to push Trump out of office.
Since his Real Time appearance, plenty of doubters have questioned whether Scaramucci is sincere and a reliable soldier for the so-called Resistance. He raised and donated millions of dollars toward Trump’s 2016 election victory and coveted a top White House job even as some of his fellow Republicans abandoned the president, citing his boasts about sexually assaulting women, his belittling of John McCain’s military service, and his mocking of a disabled reporter. In a Washington Post op-ed published earlier this month, the Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote: “Yes, he’s had it with Trump, but there’s something that grinds about the road-to-Damascus conversion narrative of the president’s former confidant and fellow New York blowhard. There’s a whiff of a reality-TV tease, the aroma of a pro-wrestling kayfabe, the faint stench of a canned I’m fired? No, you’re fired! melodrama, mostly because none of Trump’s character flaws were hidden from Scaramucci or anyone else in the enabler class.”
The president and Scaramucci have had their ups and downs since Trump jumped into the presidential race in 2015. They weren’t on bad terms when Scaramucci was booted out. His head-spinning rise and fall became a cultural sensation, etching his name into the lexicon. Mooch. Noun. 1. Nonscientific term for a unit of time equal to 11 days, the length of Scaramucci’s White House employment.
This time, though, the break seems permanent. Can you rebuild a relationship with a person you call “an insecure orange turd”—Scaramucci’s new nickname for his old boss? Can you reestablish trust with someone who says you’re a “highly unstable nut job”—the president’s characterization of Scaramucci?
Détente is unthinkable, Scaramucci told me. “It’s beyond reconciliation,” he said. “Look at the guy’s record and look at his personality. No way you can reconcile with somebody like that. He’s a presidential monster, and he’s got to be defeated.”
We spoke for about 40 minutes on the phone this week, covering his growing disaffection with Trump, his motivations for turning on his old boss, and his plans for limiting the president to just one term. “I’m having a very relaxing, uneventful summer,” he joked. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Peter Nicholas: When we spoke in Las Vegas, you seemed ready to return to the White House if the president asked. What happened?
Anthony Scaramucci: His style, his mannerisms, his demagoguery, his racist tropes—this sort of stuff is way overwhelming anything he’s doing in terms of economic policy and things like that.
Going after me on his Twitter account was sort of the end for me. A sign of full-blown demagoguery, as if Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy got together and had a baby and it ended up being Donald Trump. And now he’s running the American government.
In spite of all the help I tried to give him—and I was in the White House for a short period of time and I tried to stay loyal to him—there is just an overwhelming preponderance of evidence now that he’s a very misguided, arguably sick person who you can’t really support anymore.
Nicholas: In your book, Trump, the Blue-Collar President, you wrote, “The most important contribution Donald Trump has given the American worker is even more valuable than the extra money in their pockets. It’s the sense of pride that has been restored.” Do you still feel that’s true?
Scaramucci: I do feel that’s true. A presidential historian down the line will say there was a vacuum of advocacy from Democrats and Republicans as it related to advocating for blue-collar workers. They felt disenfranchised. They felt they weren’t being heard and there were no real policy prescriptions for them. Whether you like the president or dislike the president, objectively, he’ll be remembered for that. He provided them something, and—by the way—that’s one of the main reasons why you have a very large group of people who, to quote the president, would stay loyal to him even if he shot people on Fifth Avenue. Because for 30 years, they’ve had a lack of advocacy.
If you want to beat the president, stop calling people “deplorable.” Stop calling them “white ethnocentrists” and “white nationalists.” Call them what they actually are: They’re people who have economic anxiety and who want to do better in society.
Nicholas: What do you think of the way Trump has staffed and organized the White House? The person in your old job is Stephanie Grisham; she’s also the press secretary. What do you make of this team?
Scaramucci: He’s as pure a narcissist as you can get. So what happens is when you’re a full-blown narcissist like that, you can’t take anybody’s counsel. You have such insecurity that you’re afraid if you get an idea from somebody, that it can end up in the press that that person had some measure of influence over you. So he doesn’t take anybody’s counsel. If anything, he’ll do the exact opposite of what someone is suggesting. That’s exactly what he did with the trade situation. He thought he was bigger than the 75-year-old global-trading system. He’s wreaking havoc on it.
I don’t take it personally that [Grisham] has come after me. [In a TV interview this month, following Scaramucci’s Real Time appearance, Grisham said his “feelings just seem to be hurt.”] I understand it’s her job. But I would point out to people that Stephanie has lasted way more “Mooches” than me. But I still have one over on her. I’ve done one more press conference than her.
That should tell you where things are in the White House. This guy has to control everything, and everyone is on pins and needles and at their sycophantic best. It’s just no way to run something.
Nicholas: When you were in the White House, did you see any behavior from Trump that troubled you?
Scaramucci: There was only one specific conversation that I had with him directly, and that was over Russian sanctions. He didn’t want to sign those sanctions. That was back in July [of 2017]. And I told him, “You’re going to get overturned by the Senate. They’re going to override your veto, and that’s going to be emasculating. I think you should find a different fight.” He ended up signing them. I’m not saying he did it because of me.
Nicholas: What do you believe needs to happen now? Do you want to see the Cabinet invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment? Should Republicans defeat him in the primary?
Scaramucci: They’ve looked at the Twenty-Fifth Amendment—many of the Cabinet members have. And the big reluctance there is he has such an ardent base, he has such loyal, aggressive support, that I think they’re worried there could be some kind of social upheaval as a result of this. I think where it stands right now is he has to get beaten at the ballot box. There has to be a full-blown litigation of who he is, what he’s done, the damage he’s done to our society, and then you’ve got to hope and pray that the Democrats put up somebody that’s not a full-blown socialist.
What I’m hoping to do over the next three or four months is hit him so hard that we knock down his poll numbers. If we can knock them into the low 30s or high 20s [from his roughly 40 percent approval rating now, according to Gallup], it becomes a fait accompli, and like Lyndon Johnson [in 1968], he doesn’t run. That will make the field wide open. That’s the goal. I may have sucked as a communications director, but I’m a pretty organized entrepreneur.
Nicholas: When you went to work for him, you knew about the Access Hollywood tape, the insults of John McCain, the mocking of the disabled reporter, the Muslim ban, yet you were still willing to do it. Why?
Scaramucci: This is the dilemma. You can accuse me of being wrong, and misguided, and equivocating on the president’s behalf, and trying to rationalize that there were good policies, and so I would take the good with the bad. But I’m remorseful and contrite and regretful about all that. Now what I’m suggesting to people is, if you want to lambaste me for it, go ahead. But I’m encouraging people who want to defeat Trump not to do that to others. We have to create an off-ramp for people who made those same very bad decisions that I made, but also had the courage to admit they were wrong, and to come out in force against this man.
Nicholas: There are critics who say you’re doing this for publicity purposes. What is your response?
Scaramucci: I need this sort of publicity like a hole in my head. If I just stayed in the tank for Trump—I was getting a fairly requisite share of publicity—this is not the kind of publicity that people like. This takes a tremendous amount of gumption and courage to speak up and stand for the truth in a society right now where people are having a hard time and are confused by what the truth actually is. I’m taking tremendous incoming from both sides. If this was a move to create publicity, it was a fairly dumb move.
Nicholas: What do you make of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s new gig on Dancing With the Stars?
Scaramucci: It’s a free market. If the production people thought it was a good idea to cast him, and beneficial to the show, and it’s going to help him out, then God bless them. I don’t begrudge anyone making money in our country. I thought it was a lot of fun to go on Celebrity Big Brother when they asked me to. I couldn’t stay for the whole season, but I did a short stint, which was a lot of fun.